Daylight Savings Time ended Sunday, November 3, 2019, at 2:00 AM. One of the unintended consequences of gaining that extra hour of sleep is losing the hour of daylight. For pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers this often leads to a spike in the number of injury causing crashes.
According to professors Paul Fischbeck and David Gerard, both of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, it's not the darkness itself that's the killer, but the adjustment to earlier nighttime. These researchers calculated that pedestrians walking during the evening rush hour are nearly three times more likely to be struck and killed by cars in the weeks immediately after the changing of the clocks. According to Gerard and Fischbeck, ending daylight saving time means roughly 37 more U.S. pedestrian deaths around 6 p.m. in November compared to October.
Here are some steps pedestrians/bicyclists can take to prevent death and injury:
Wear bright colored clothing, use reflective materials and carry a small flashlight to make yourself more visible to motorists.
Be careful of midblock crossings. The motorist may not be looking for you.
Be aware of left turning vehicles at intersections. Pedestrians should always walk facing traffic and bicyclists must ride with traffic. The bike should be equipped with both white and red reflectors or blinking lights so that bike and rider are more visible to drivers.
Drivers can also take some steps to avoid pedestrian/bicycle crashes:
Prepare your vehicle. Keep headlights, taillights, signals and auxiliary lights clean and in good working condition.
Clean the windshield and replace wipers regularly. This will help enhance visibility, particularly when it is dark outside.
Reduce speeds particularly in areas with a high volume of foot traffic and don’t forget to yield to pedestrians.
Is a Helmet Worth It? How Brain Injuries Affect Different Body Functions
If you ride bicycles, you may have an idea of just how much crashing hurts. Crashing or being hit while riding your bicycle can be anything from simply embarrassing to majorly painful. New riders may think that they’re skilled enough to never crash, but ask any bicycle accident lawyer and they will tell you there are many factors outside of one’s control, and the occasional crash is inevitable.
This is why bike safety is so important. There are so many ways that bike injuries can linger or lead to lifelong issues that to ride without the proper safety gear is very unwise. This is especially true for those who live in a large city like New York City. Because NYC has such a large population, there are many more people and vehicles on the streets. It’s much more likely someone will run into you or get in your way and cause a crash.
While broken bones will hurt and take time to heal, a head injury can be even worse. Traumatic brain injury can be irreversible and make it difficult to function. It can lead to vision and hearing loss, difficulty with memory, a lack of coordination, and can even affect your heart rate and ability to breathe. Because each section of the brain controls different parts of the body, a brain injury can affect just about anything.
Bicycle Injuries: Would they have been prevented with a helmet?
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2009, 91% of all bicyclists killed in an accident were not wearing a helmet. That means out of the 628 riders who were killed that year, 573 of them weren’t wearing a helmet. This wasn’t an abnormal year, either—the percentage of bikers who died in accidents and were not wearing a helmet has never been below 80% with the exception of the 2010-2012 statistics. These statistics are actually the abnormality because, while 65 to 70% were not wearing helmets, another 16 to 17% are listed as “unknown,” meaning they may or may not have had some kind of protective headgear on at the time of the accident.
The most commonly injured bicyclist is a male over 16 years old riding without a helmet in an urban area. Out of the 601 bikers who were killed in 2012, only 166 of them had a blood alcohol content level above .08 percent. Most were completely sober.
What can be drawn from these statistics? While it’s hard to say if any of the bicyclists would have survived their crash if they had been wearing a helmet (helmets cannot prevent neck or face injuries), it’s entirely possible some of them would have.
In many non-fatal crashes, there is a definite answer: helmets reduce damage to the brain. According to a number of studies, head injuries account for over 60 percent of all bicycle-related injuries. In a study done by the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, medical professionals reported that up to 88 percent of these head injuries that resulted in brain trauma could have been prevented had the bicyclist been wearing a helmet.
Damage to the brain can lead to many different difficulties and lifelong issues. The brain controls everything about the human body. As such, damage to the brain can affect any part of the body, even changing a person’s behavior and abilities. The brain can be divided into six different areas.
The brain stem is the term for the lowest part of the brain that connects to the rest of the body. Because it connects to the neck, the brain stem is fairly vulnerable. Damage to the brain stem can lead to many different physical problems, including a loss of balance and the ability to sleep. It can also cause an irregular heartbeat, breathing problems, and difficulty with swallowing. The brain stem controls blood pressure, body temperature, sweating, and digestion, too, and any or all of these functions can be affected by damage.
The cerebellum is the part of the brain that coordinates movement, balance, equilibrium, and helps with reflexes. Those who have damage to their cerebellum may have difficulty performing complex actions or, in the case of major damage, basic actions like walking.
The frontal lobe is where much of our thinking occurs. It controls things like how we perceive our environment, our emotions, our language, and how we understand concepts and solve problems. A head injury that affects the frontal lobe can make it very difficult to function.
The parietal lobe handles many of our senses, including touch perception and our ability to manipulate objects. Damage here can throw off how the senses work together.
The occipital lobes are concerned with one function: vision. Damage to these lobes can lead to a loss of vision and blurred vision.
Finally, the temporal lobes handle hearing, memory, emotion, and the processing of verbal information. Light damage can cause a decrease in hearing or in memory, while major damage can leave someone unable to express emotion or remember much of anything.
Conclusion While being injured in a bicycle crash may be inevitable, wearing a helmet can greatly reduce the chances or severity of brain damage. In many cases, a brain injury doesn’t just affect one area—several parts of the brain can be damaged, leading to a number of different problems for the bicyclist. Why risk that? A helmet is a fairly inexpensive and easy to wear piece of equipment that can provide a great amount of protection. It seems a risk that few people should be willing to take, yet many people ride their bikes without wearing a helmet. Even worse, a number of parents let their children ride bikes without proper safety gear. No one is too young or too old to wear a helmet.
Don’t open yourself up to brain damage from a bicycle injury. Purchase and wear a helmet whenever you ride.
Lowell Wolf and Mark Hoffacker (pictured below) from the NY Coalition for Transportation Safety conducted a bicycle for the children who are attending summer camp at the Westbury Lutheran church. Children learned to improve their handling of their bicycles, the need for bicycle helmets when they are riding wheeled vehicles and how to maintain their bikes/scooters for maximum safety.
According to Newsday, Nassau County has a backlog of complaints abut unsafe intersections and roadways throughout the County. These locations, as identified by Nassau County Department of Public are “unsafe for various reasons ranging from aging roadways with increasing amounts of traffic and accidents caused by misuse of cellphones while driving.” Many of the locations will require traffic studies taking upwards of a year to complete before improvements can be made.
In the meantime, to help remediate the problem, the Nassau County Traffic Safety Board, through the services of the NY Coalition for Transportation Safety, will offer traffic safety education programs upon request for schools, senior centers and community organizations. Programs cover pedestrian safety and bicycle safety as well as relevant sections of the NY State Vehicle & Traffic Law that applies to pedestrians and bicyclists. Program participants can also learn how to assess their environment for the safest places to walk or bike. Programs are approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
To schedule a program for your school or organization, please call Cynthia Brown, 516-571-6808 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Programs are funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through a grant from the NY State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee.
A self-driving Uber taxi after killing a pedestrian Public domain work of an NTSB employee
Would you ride in a car that could kill you to save a thinner person's life? No, it isn’t a new method for tackling obesity. The answer could be 'yes' according to the results of the largest moral decision survey ever conducted with 2.3 million participants from 233 countries. But is this MIT study just a thought experiment dragged from the annals of moral philosophy or does it have practical consequences for the ethical programming of self-driving cars? Would it be ethical to code the results into cars or would it turn them into autonomous weapons? Do we even have the technology to make this viable? We’ll get to these questions, but first, let’s take a closer look at the MIT study.
The study presents participants with 13 scenarios involving a self-driving car. Each scenario has two pictures of a road and a crossing. The pictures leave you with a dilemma and ask, ‘what should the self-driving car do?’ One choice may be between the car killing a jaywalking teenager or swerving into a concrete barrier and killing three elderly passengers.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of respondents agreed to spare the lives of groups of people over individuals and to save humans over pets. But, as you'd expect, there are international differences in priorities about who to save. This is the most valuable and important aspect of the study.
Finish and Japanese people more often chose to kill people who are jaywalking compared to those from Nigeria or Pakistan. The Fins also showed little preference between homeless people and executives, whereas Colombians favored killing persons of lower status. The gallant French were more likely to save women over men.
This doesn't mean that the survey helps us to program autonomous cars to act ethically, and I will soon explain why not. The survey makes signification contribution to an old philosophical thought experiment with roots going back to a 1905 survey by Philosophy Professor Frank Chapman Sharp at the University of Wisconsin: a fast approaching train with hundreds of passengers was hurtling them towards their death unless a watching man switches the train to another track. The dilemma is that his young son was playing on the other track and would be killed if he pushed the switch.
In the more modern form of the moral dilemma, the UK philosopher Philipa Foot, in 1975, used trollies instead of trains. The basic problem is that a trolley is speeding down a track and will kill five workers unless you push a switch to send it down a spur and kill one worker instead. What do you do? If you’ve watched ‘The Good Place’ on Netflix (Series 2 Episode 5) you’ll know many of the variants of this dilemma and the consequences in their full gory detail.
Does she let five die or push the lever to kill one?Noel Sharkey
Judging by the MIT study, most will say that you should switch the tracks and kill one individual. But perhaps it requires a little more deliberation than offered by the study. As the tech philosopher Patrick Lin told Scientific American, “If you had to choose between two evils, and one is killing and the other is letting die, then letting someone die is a lesser evil—and that’s why inaction is okay in the trolley problem.”
If you’re scratching your head right now, you may need a few more examples to grab this point. Imagine that instead of being by the track you are on a bridge and can see that the trolley is fast approaching five people on the track. There is a large overweight man looking over the bridge. You can stop the trolley by pushing him to his death. This may be a step too far for many of you.
If you still think that one life for five is reasonable, try this one from the US moral philosopher Judith Thomson in 1985:
"A brilliant transplant surgeon has five patients, each in need of a different organ, each of whom will die without that organ. Unfortunately, there are no organs available to perform any of these five transplant operations. A healthy young traveller, just passing through the city the doctor works in, comes in for a routine check-up. In the course of doing the check-up, the doctor discovers that his organs are compatible with all five of his dying patients. Suppose further that if the young man were to disappear, no one would suspect the doctor. Do you support the morality of the doctor to kill that tourist and provide his healthy organs to those five dying persons and save their lives?"
Most of you will waiver at this point and probably say, “no”. But this is really not any different from the original one-for-five trolley problem. So maybe we shouldn't get caught in a tangled web of moral philosophy when our concerns are focussed on the issue of real deaths caused by self-driving cars. The fact that the moral decisions of mere mortals can be swung according to context, should give us pause to think about the limitations of the 13 decisions presented in the MIT survey.
Germany viewshuman dignity and the right to life as paramount
The German Federal Government’s ethics commission for autonomous vehicles has taken a strict rule-bound position in their guidelines: “In the event of unavoidable accident situations, any distinction between individuals based on personal features (age, gender, physical or mental constitution) is impermissible”. Others may feel the same way but there was no way to indicate that in the forced choice study.
Germany's decision is in line with Article 1 of their Basic Law in which human dignity is inviolable. To respect and protect it is the duty of all state authority. In 2005 the German Federal Constitutional Court had the opportunity to test Article 1 in a decision about a genuine instance of a real-life lethal trolley problem.
Imagine a plane hijacked by terrorists is flying towards a highly populated area to crash. The air force can either shoot the plane down over a less populated area (like switching the trolley lines) or let it proceed to kill many people. According to the MIT survey, most people would choose to shoot the plane down and save more people. But the Constitutional Court ruled that shooting down the plane would be incompatible with the constitutional right to life and the right to human dignity.
They reasoned that it would turn passengers and crew, who are victims of a hijacked plane, into objects. If their deaths were used to save others they would be reduced to mere things at the pleasure of the state. Further, they asserted that arguing that the passengers would die anyway is invalid because human lives deserve protection regardless of the expected duration of their existence.
Will the survey help to ethically code vehicle responses?
The short answer is ‘no’ for some obvious reasons. For starters, the forced choice between two options in the moral judgment task is much too simplistic to be useful for the very large number of circumstances in which accidents can occur on the roads. The real world presents many more options such as swerving onto the pavement or braking by scraping along a crash barrier and other more strategic ways to save lives.
We also saw from the ‘overweight man on the bridge’ and the ‘transplant surgeon’ examples that inaction may be the better course of action. Just because there were similarities in the responses of millions of people for on a morally restricted task, doesn’t mean that it tells us the right moral values to program into a robot car. Being killed or injured accidentally is not the same as being selected as a target by calculations on a computer.
Essentially the car's control system would turn it into an autonomous weapon by using a computer sensing system to determine which target to kill. This may well be a violation of our fundamental human right to life as specified in Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Charter of Human Rights. Governments have a duty to prevent foreseeable loss of life and should not allow self-driving cars to turn into weapons systems whenever they enter the scene of an accident.
And what about the car killing its passengers. That is not the best business model for selling cars. Who in their right minds would want to buy a car that could kill them rather than prioritize saving their life? According to the survey results, the car would kill its overweight passenger rather than risk crashing into a thinner pedestrian. No thank you!
But there are much bigger problems that stab a dagger into the heart of the MIT group’s reasoning. All of this discussion is meaningless without a magical new technology.
Where reality meets philosophy, the scientific and engineering challenges are enormous and innumerable. Self-driving cars rely on sensors such as cameras and Lidars to capture and process data about the surrounding area, obstacles, pedestrians and other vehicles. But car sensing systems are incapable of the fine-grained discriminations needed to distinguish between children, teenagers, athletes, executives, doctors, the homeless and grannies. That would require everyone to wear a transmitter giving their personal details to the car so that it could calculate exactly who to target. It could even transmit your social rating so that those with less ‘likes’ are toast.
In that case, the best advice for passengers would be to ensure that their fellow passengers were babies and young women. Pedestrians should always cross the road in groups and make sure that they are in the largest group. Other advice would be, don’t grow old, don’t walk to a fancy dress party in an animal costume and lose as much weight as you can.
Another problem is that accidents are not often static.Dynamic events unfold in time making them difficult if not impossible to predict.Cars are unlikely to have complete information about road surfaces, the depth of spillages or the weight and material of other vehicles. The activity going on behind other vehicles or pedestrians could be occluded from the sensors. Combined with incomplete sensing information, a car could make poor targeting choices and deflect into other vehicles or pedestrians. The dangers multiply when there are other self-driving cars involved that may have different priority settings.
And we can only guess at what malicious hackers might do. Or how other human drivers or pedestrians could game cars. Suppose that a gang wanted to kill a woman, they could run onto the road when she was crossing and have a self-driving car swerve into her.
The meme, the dream and the life-saving cars
There is a meme that was started by people working on the early development of self-driving vehicles that they will dramatically reduce road deaths. This may well be true eventually, but it is a hypothesis and not yet a fact. It would certainly be dumb to launch millions of self-driving cars on our roads tomorrow. That would simply add machine errors to human errors and create more road deaths. We are just not ready yet.
It is also a mistake to think that all autonomous car companies are equal or equally cautious as we have seen from recent fatalities. This is a new technology that could have massive positive benefits if we proceed with care and don't rush it. Too many accidents at the beginning could turn consumers away and remove a potentially great technical innovation. Let us take it slowly and incrementally - there is no big rush.
The dream of massively cutting road deaths could happen but not with self-driving cars alone. It would require significant changes to be made to the infrastructure of the road systems. Many accidents could be avoided by having cars communicate with one another, having sensors along all of the roads to alert cars to upcoming dangers and by having centralized control so that cars can be slowed down or stopped as necessary to prevent accidents. We could build the capacity to do that over time.o be
It would be very expensive, but what cost can you place on saving lives? Nations have massive budgets for weapons and military developments to defend their citizens from being killed by outside forces. The US spends between 16% and 20% of its total budget on defense - around $650 to $700 billion per year. Yet car accidents take far more US lives than attacks from foreign powers or terrorists. Would it not be a rational move to take a good portion of the defense budget to defend us against death by car?
I've been researching in AI, Robotics, Machine Learning, Cognitive Science and related areas for 4 decades in US and UK universities and am now an Emeritus Professor of AI and Robotics at Sheffield University, UK. As I grew older, I became concerned about the misinformation ...
The New York Coalition for Transportation Safety, at the request of Nassau County Legislator Denise Ford, conducted a bicycle safety educational program in Point Lookout, NY. The program included instruction in bicycle safety and the distribution of bicycle helmets to nearly 50 children and adults who attended. According to Legislator Ford, Point Lookout and its surrounding communities have the most bicyclists on the streets in Nassau County at any given time. Legislator Ford, who donated more than 2 dozen helmets for the event, urged her constituents to ride their bikes carefully and responsibly. “I hope that promoting bicycle safety will improve the well-being of our residents, reduce injuries and save lives.”
NY Coalition for Transportation staff fit bicycle helmets for both
youngsters and adults who participated in the Pt. Lookout Bicycle
Safety Education Program and Helmet giveaway. Legislator
Ford (top) watches as a young man gets his first bicycle helmet.
Caltrans has chosen 17 ramps on three Sacramento freeways for a test program after a spate of wrong-way freeway crashes. The test area extends from Davis on I-80 to Howe Avenue on Highway 50 and the Q Street ramp from Interstate 5 in downtown Sacramento.